Select Committee on Environmental Audit Second Report


At the WTO

50. The UK the EU, and the WTO itself, have made commitments to the pursuit of a more open and transparent negotiating process at the WTO. We urge the Government to press, through the EU, for continued efforts by the WTO and its members to engage with other international institutions and civil society in the debate over the best way to improve the multilateral trading system's contribution to sustainable development. One proposal we have heard of merit is for there to be a parliamentary assembly associated with the Organisation as there is with a number of other multilateral institutions such as NATO, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. With respect to engagement with other international bodies, we regard the establishment of coordination mechanisms between the WTO and other global economic, development and environmental institutions to be a priority.

In the UK

51. NGOs told us that the Government had been far more open in its preparations for the new WTO negotiations than in regard to the OECD negotiations of the MAI and this supported the Government's own claims. This had resulted in improved information flows. What was not discernible was any resulting changes to UK policy, or even emphases, as a result. Mr Duncan McClaren, FoE, said that the MAI experience clearly had opened doors in government for civil society but still, in effect, there was 'nobody home'.[95]

52. In terms of parliamentary oversight we welcomed the Government's commitment to providing the House with ministerial statements before and after the Seattle summit but there was no commitment to even the possibility of a full debate the House a chance to express its opinion. In the case of the OECD MAI the Government said that it had never ruled out the possibility of a debate in the House "had the right circumstances arisen". We would like to hear the criteria for the 'right circumstances' in relation to the Millennium Round. We regret that the House was asked to approve the Government's proposals for Seattle, on the back of taking note of the European Commission's position, without a full debate in the Chamber and in advance of the promised ministerial statement.

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Prepared 25 November 1999